Itasca, Moon Bros., Lawrence Peters Outfit | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Itasca

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Itasca, Moon Bros., Lawrence Peters Outfit 

When: Wed., Oct. 26, 9 p.m. 2016
Price: $8
LA singer and guitarist Kayla Cohen has already revealed an impressive vision with her project Itasca, but she’s made a huge artistic leap on the new Open to Chance (Paradise of Bachelors). In the past Cohen has complemented her crystalline voice and rustic fingerstyle acoustic guitar patterns with occasional daubs of pedal steel, but here she opens things up with a nimble ensemble whose accents and filigree cast her songwriting in highly effective relief. Her luster leads to frequent comparisons to the early-70s Laurel Canyon sound, and indeed, at her most austere—like on the piano ballad “Carousel”—she summons the spirit of Ladies of the Canyon-era Joni Mitchell. Still, Cohen transmits an aesthetic purity very much her own, essaying a weakness for the rustic in a bruising world. On opener “Buddy” she fantasizes about life on a rural mountaintop with her lover, imagining mice as their guide and briars as their wedding rings, while on “Angel” the modest dream of waking up in a lover’s garden is no less fantastical: “You were golden in the light / You are the weave / With roses flowering beneath / You are the keeper.” In contrast, on “No Consequence” she bridles at those who reject life’s mystery by embracing hard certainties, which could be an indictment of Donald Trump’s cocksure recklessness: “And I look up upon you with my ordinary step / Who is this blind God who walks with no regrets.” On “G.B.” Cohen pushes for a brisk country-rock sound that summons Gram Parsons, though for the most part she keeps the instrumentation lean and the atmosphere meditative. Her touring band includes pedal-steel player Dave McPeters, drummer Kevin Donohue, and bassist Sophie Weil.
— Peter Margasak
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